Sunday, May 25, 2008

The politics of conversion

Politicians not infrequently ‘cross the floor’, or, to put it another way, convert to a political worldview to which they have dedicated a not inconsiderable part of their life vehemently opposing. Whether that conversion is genuine, or is simply a fickle profession in order to be associated with the wining side and on the ascendancy, only God can judge. But such conversions carry with them the reality of persecution from one’s former brotherhood, which, one presumes, must at least be offset by the lauding and praise one receives from one’s new fraternity.

Quentin Davies is the most recent disaffected Tory who was blinded by the light of New Labour, but there have been many others. And some confused souls have even mistaken the aura around the Liberal Democrats to be the light of truth, only to discover the reality that all manner of political demons may appear as angels of light. And even now there is more joy in the Conservative Party over one sinner who repents of standing for New Labour than there is in the thousands of loyal workers who have stayed with their party through its darkest hours.

Yet while crossing the floor represents a betrayal of one’s political colleagues and of one’s constituents (who more frequently than not vote along party lines rather than for individual candidates), the nation at large scarcely bats an eyelid. If one were to ask anyone in the street if they knew who Quentin Davis was, he would barely register. Even fewer would be aware that our ‘greatest Briton’, Sir Winston Churchill, was not averse to switching sides when he deemed it expedient to do so.

Politics demands a missionary approach, for the only way of implementing one’s policies is to win converts in the hope that on judgement day one has more brothers and sisters than one’s opponents. Conversion in politics is not deemed to be offensive; indeed, it is the very life-blood of a vibrant democracy to which freedom of expression and freedom of conscience are intrinsic. The freedom to convert and to seek converts is an undoubted manifestation and consequence of true liberty. The extent to which a society permits its citizens to change their minds and to persuade others to their new-found cause is a true measure of its commitment to progressive enlightenment.

So it is bemusing, if not profoundly irritating, that a ‘traditionalist Anglican’ is coming under ‘intense pressure from bishops’ to withdraw his Synod motion that the Church should ‘proclaim Christianity as the only route to ultimate salvation’. Since such a call is manifestly not ‘inclusive’, it does not accord with the zeitgeist.

Paul Eddy, a lay member of the General Synod, has secured sufficient support for his motion to be debated, but is being denounced by sundry bishops within and some Muslims without, but his assertion remains that ‘the Church can no longer avoid hard questions about its beliefs’.

He is concerned by the reality of ‘no-go areas’ for the gospel, to which the Bishop of Rochester has also referred, and says the church has ‘lost its nerve’ and was ‘not doing what the Bible says’. “Both Christianity and Islam are missionary faiths," he said. "For years, we have sent missionaries throughout the whole world, but when we have the privilege of people of all nations on our doorstep, we have a responsibility as the state church to share the gospel of Jesus Christ."

"Most Muslims that I've talked to say: 'I really wish that Christians would stop watering down their faith and expecting us to do the same’. Until we start really saying what we really believe in our faith, there will be no respect. Actually, to present to a Muslim that we believe Jesus is the only way to God, they'll say, 'We know that'. They will expect us - if we're true Christians - to try to evangelise them, in the same way they will expect us, if they're true Muslims, to adopt their faith."

And the impeccably neutral BBC News religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott says: ‘Mr Eddy's stance is likely to alienate many Muslims at a highly-sensitive time in the relationship between Islam and Christianity in the UK’. He added: ‘The motion is a sign of the conservative evangelical wing of the Church flexing its muscles to oppose what it warns is a watering down of Christian values in deference especially to Muslims’.

Cranmer admires Mr Eddy's conviction and wishes him well in his mission. If the BBC is the principal opponent and arch-persecutor, it probably indicates that Mr Eddy is on the right side. There is no hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury will raise his voice in support of Mr Eddy, but Cranmer looks forward to the floods of encouragement this poor trainee Anglican priest shall receive from those Roman Catholic journalists who are obsessed with conversion, or from those prelates who accuse the Church of England of perpetual and unacceptable compromise, or from His Holiness, who is so admirably uncompromising about the immutable truths that he is not remotely bothered by any politically-correct, relativist, liberal agenda.

His Grace shall not hold his breath.


Anonymous billy said...

Well, I've said it before and I'll say it again, if Christianity is right all other faiths and religions are wrong.

It really is that simple; unless you ask my vicar.

25 May 2008 at 12:38  
Anonymous juliana said...

Supposing that one had "crossed the floor" from the Church of England to the Church of Rome, and had realised that this had been the wrong solution to a doctrinal difficulty, is it permissible simply to come home again , or would one have formally to seek readmission?

25 May 2008 at 12:47  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Ms Juliana,

With the present state of the Church of England, it is highly unlikely that anyone would have noticed your departure, unless you were the organist or regularly arranged the flowers.

If you skulked aroung the back pews for a few weeks, you could interpret the invitation to draw nearer to the altar as an undoubted sign that all is forgiven, if, indeed, anyone bothers to assert that there is anything to forgive.

25 May 2008 at 13:56  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

""Most Muslims that I've talked to say: 'I really wish that Christians would stop watering down their faith and expecting us to do the same’."

That's the thing with modern Christianity, there's no repentance of glorification of the Kingdom of Heaven.

25 May 2008 at 14:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the problem? This is what is preached day in,day out. "No-one comes to the Father except by Me"

25 May 2008 at 15:21  
Anonymous John said...

I crossed the floor to reality many decades ago, I left religion behind, never to need the comfortable embrace of faith to answer the unanswerable questions, happy to view the world through eyes akin to Spinoza, if you seek god look around you. Cross the floor to reality in the knowledge that there is nothing after life, enjoy this life as it belongs to you alone.

25 May 2008 at 18:38  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

I know I'm just feeding a long and rambling argument John, but having never died I cannot with intellectual honesty agree with you and say there is nothing after life.

Scientific Atheism

25 May 2008 at 20:35  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
with near gritted teeth i listend to gene robinson , where are those of us to go , who think such a liberal experiment in clergy will lead us into bondage .
of course in comdemming gene robinsons personal active sexual preferances i am to open my self up to "judge ye not" which does have some resonance .

however if i am to cross that particular floor imposed on my me by the broadening of my faiths leaders view of scripture , it immediately appears to be a watering down .

how can i support the dali lama (which i do) and proclaim my faith as the only route to salvation ??.

it may be true that gentle spirits do not cause conflicts , but weak ones certainly build the funeral pyre for the disenfranchised ignorance to rise forth .

a rush at this stage would cause instability , and i can only hope that words and dialogue do not run out , but if the christain faith has no respect in its theological as well as historical supremacy carefully tested over hundreds of years , then my church will have failed its congregations , and only history will say if we have failed god .

as for johns post , do you not have the athiest scientific equivalent of cranmer for you to inhabit , if even engageing in theological dialogue is heresy for you , at least give us an insight as to why you think i am deluded and you apparently not.

26 May 2008 at 00:18  
Anonymous Asian Colonial Subject said...

"His Grace shall not hold his breath"

If Your Grace has any to hold, to begin with, seeing that Your Grace has not reconstituted your ashes, and lungs yet.

As a chinese Singaporean who is a member of a presbyterian church in Singapore which used to be part of the Church of Scotland, I am thankful that your colonial predescessors were more bold in their proclaimation of the gospel and bringing the light of Christianity to this part of the far east.

Truly, this part of Asian has benefitted from the benefits of British colonial rule, not only in terms of modern legal systems and institution, but in terms of the shameless evangelism which your Kingdom's subjects performed in my country, for which we Asian christians are indebted to.

I mean no offence to Your Grace's Church, but I am amazed at the heights to which your churh has fallen. How did it come to pass that the church which used to sent missionaries and ministers throughout the wide world of the British empire for the expansion of God's kingdom on foreign lands are now forbidden even to expand it within their own?

I shall remember the Anglican Church in my prayers as this motion is to be debated.

26 May 2008 at 04:44  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Your Grace

Have the Bishops forgotten Matthew 28:19

'Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost'

or Mark 16:15

'Go ye into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature'

And there is nothing in the Acts about any of the Disciples saying to Peter after Pentecost -

'Steady on old chap, these are visitors to Jerusalem. We don't want to offend them'

26 May 2008 at 08:51  
Blogger John M Ward said...

Although I appreciate the analogy, the political scene is perhaps more complex and less certain than the religious one (despite the best efforts of man to make the latter less clear than it probably ought to be).

First, it is unlikely that any political party will precisely fit the outlook of any individual. Then parties, society and individuals all change, the last also learning while growing up and beyond.

God is unchanging, so belief in Him can be absolute -- provided we come to know the true God and not some twisted version.

I too wish Paul Eddy well in his quest.

26 May 2008 at 10:30  
Blogger The Green Man said...

John, I cannot agree with you at all. It is very well to say, 'enjoy this life', but what does that entail? Does it mean that I may lie, cheat and steal in order to fulfil my desires? I suspect you would say that it does not, but what are your grounds for saying this, apart from the afterglow of faith?

When I look around me I see a world that is evidently fallen from what it was, I see things that my heart tells me were not meant to be. And when I look to the word of God, I see the reason why.

On the motion of Mr. eddy, it really is perfectly simple, either the Bible os true or it isn't. If Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and no-one comes to the Father except by him, then this is true, no matter what the Bishops say. Reality is reality, and no amount of waffle, garbage or wishful thinking is going to change that.

27 May 2008 at 09:44  
Blogger Joanna Bogle said...

Not for publication...but you didn't leave an email address where I could reach you so I am having to contact you this way!

Of course you may publicise my praise for your blog.

Let's keep praying for our poor country at this time...

27 May 2008 at 23:42  
Anonymous TexasAnglophyle said...

Asian Colonial Subject said "...Truly, this part of Asian has benefitted from the benefits of British colonial rule, not only in terms of modern legal systems and institution, but in terms of the shameless evangelism which your Kingdom's subjects performed in my country, for which we Asian christians are indebted to...."

The Anglican Bishops of Africa also bear witness to this amazing legacy. One wonders if perhaps the very reason God allowed the British Empire to exist and prosper for as long as it did was to provide the means for Christian evangelism to be carried out on a grand scale. As those waves of evangelism have gradually subsided, has God withdrawn his favor and allowed Great Britain to lose much of its "greatness?"

Similarly, I wonder if God made America powerfull for the purpose of sending out missionaries and supporting the state of Israel, and if we were ever to waiver in these duties, would God surely raise up someone else to take our place?

3 June 2008 at 21:27  

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